INI + AMEN.
(1. Oops!: The sword comes against the church.)
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That’s a hard pill for us to swallow. Jesus did come to bring peace, but it’s not peace as the world would have it. It’s not even as we want to define it. There’s a result or an effect that Jesus’ peace has—a sword. The sword comes against the Church. Think about Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman, who was imprisoned for being a Christian and threatened with death, even while pregnant, because she believes that Jesus died and rose again for her. Think about the Church in Denmark. Denmark is forcing Churches to Conduct Gay Marriages. Think about our own country. Where will we be heading?
It shouldn’t surprise us. We want to think that the world has been a friend of the Church. But this isn’t the case. It never really has been. Or do you forget what Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” By God’s grace and only by His grace, since February 313, when the Edict of Milan was issued by Emperor Constantine, the temporal sword was stayed against the Christian Church. This is a great blessing from our Lord, and, by it, He allowed great expansion and evangelical outreach of His Church. But this free exercise of religion is not a promise from our Lord. We mustn’t be deluded into thinking that the Church would be better if society would just get it’s act together. This is simply not a promise of the Lord. He promises that there is a result of His peace going forth, being cast over the earth—hear it again!—“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
(2 Ugh!: The sword comes into our own homes, and we falter.)
Yes, that’s certainly a hard pill to swallow, and maybe we could handle it if it wouldn’t get any harder. But it does. Jesus’ words keep getting more ominous. “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Little Sally comes home one day. Well, she’s not so little anymore, but always “little” to mom and dad. (You know how it goes.) She’d stopped going to church so much, but she at least was a good young woman. “Mom and dad,” she says, “I’m moving in with Victor. We’re gonna get married some day. It’ll be a couple years, but we just want to get used to it first. And, oh, by the way, I’m pregnant.” Johnny had always been the favorite son. Yet over the past few years he’d become a bit more distant. His mom and dad had tried to reach out to him—even getting on “the Facebook” as they call it. One day, they didn’t see it coming, Johnny’s “interested in” changed, along with his profile picture. It said “men.” It was a rainbow. What pain it is when family members head down a different way than the Way of righteousness into which they were placed even from their youth.
It’s worse than that though: “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Now our enemies aren’t always so active. We tend to think enemies come full force against us, but sometimes they sneak behind the lines. Enemies in the household: Maybe they’ve forsaken our true confession for another denomination that doesn’t teach or confess the whole truth. Maybe they’ve forsaken the faith all together. The sword of division has come. They’ve manifested themselves as enemies, and here’s the big problem with our text today: The sword comes into our own homes, and we falter.
Listen to what Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not receive his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We want to keep things to run smoothly. We swallow our hurt and we wish, hope, and pray that the Lord would keep things running smoothly in our home. We want to keep peace with the Sallys and the Johnnys. We don’t want to bring up the elephant in the room—surely they don’t see it, but we do. We want everything to flow nice and easy. We want worldly peace. A peace where everyone gets along in spite of their differences. We’re not too happy about what the Sallys, the Johnnys, or what those in our lives are doing, but they’re still good people, and we love them after all. The sword Jesus speaks of pierces our own heart. We want peace, not arguments. Jesus is the Way of salvation, and, when people take a detour to another way, it’s easier to let it go so that we can still have our family holidays—no empty chairs—because everyone knows the two things you don’t bring up at holidays.
We must repent of our worldly peace. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The result of His Way is that some will take another way and even fight against or change the true Way, and more troubling to us—we falter, “Whoever loves…more than Me is not worthy of Me.” The sword pierces us, and enters our homes. But we must remember
(3. Aha!: )
THE SWORD MAY COME INTO OUR OWN HOMES, BUT JESUS’ PEACE, DELIVERED BY HIS SENT ONES, ENABLES US TO ENDURE THIS CROSS WE HAVE RECEIVED.
Jesus’ peace isn’t a worldly peace. It’s a peace between you and the heavenly Father. You have a heavenly Father because of that peace. In spite of that sword piercing us and us bowing to the pressure, you have a heavenly Father.
(4. Whee!: We receive another Family)
We not only have peace with our heavenly Father. We receive another family. Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands.” Look around you. These are the ones who can bear your burdens, they feel the same ones: the hurt, the loss, the pain. We bear “each others burdens” here in Christ’s holy Church. Here we receive the peace He won by dying on the cross for us. There at Calvary He bore our burdens, our failures, our faltering, and He reconciled us to the Father. There not a sword, but a spear pierced Him for you. That’s the peace Jesus has, and that’s the peace Jesus gives.
It comes to you here. Jesus delivers it to you. “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple…” This is all about how you receive the Lord’s sent-ones. He sends His men to us. While we wait for our Lord to answer our prayers about our loved ones, while we wait for His Word to work repentance and faith in them, we receive His peace from His sent ones. We receive His prophet, righteous man, His disciple, His pastor, whatever title you want to use from Scripture, and we receive from them what they have to offer: Jesus’ cross-won, empty-tomb peace.
This peace received at Font, from and through the Office, and in Body and blood from the altar is the only thing that enables us to enter the fray once again. We’ve received our cross, and we endure only because of Jesus coming to us, and strengthening us through His Word and Spirit. Only then can we trust that our heavenly Father knows what He’s doing. Only then do we know that we actually have a heavenly Father in spite of our lacking. The peace Jesus gives is the only thing we have to cling to in this life. When every other way is dim, when all other lights go out, it is our light in dark places. It is our peace amidst the battle. Jesus’ death on the cross, reconciling us to the Father, is our only hope and comfort in this life, but also in the life to come.
(5. Yeah!: We receive eternal life.)
Yes, we gain our Church family now, but we also gain “in the age to come, eternal life.” This is the true peace that Jesus gives us. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This peace is an everlasting peace delivered from Jesus to you through His sent-ones. It’s not meaningless when Pastor Kunz and I say to you at the end of the sermon “The peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s that peace that’s an everlasting peace.
We cling to it by faith. Our faith holds firm to this peace because, at the end of the day, this the peace Jesus gives. At the end of the day, this is the only peace we have. At the end of the day, this peace may also bring a sword, but we know that we are at peace not with some generic, homespun god in whom we trust. No, we are at peace with the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The peace-winning death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son, has reconciled us to the Father and we believe and trust it by faith which was worked in us through the Word by the Holy Spirit. We receive His peace by faith, and when we do so we “will by no means lose our reward.” You have the reward. You have the peace now. And one day the swords will be gone, and there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain. Just everlasting peace as we stand before the throne of the Lamb who was slain, who won for us eternal peace.
INI + AMEN.